City Hall News: This Week’s Winners and Losers
The Occupy Wall Street protest made labor leaders and some Democratic pols into both winners and losers this week — winners because the movement gave them a spotlight, and losers because they utterly failed to lead on America’s economic insecurity issues until a bunch of funny-haircut kids did their organizing for them. Let’s ignore their chants for a moment and focus on the rest of this week’s Winners & Losers:
Scott Stringer – Political insiders may puzzle at the Manhattan Borough President doing things like jumping into a news stand up after an East River helicopter crash or hosting a fundraiser with Scarlett Johansson, but to voters these things were the kind of ubiquity one wants from a Mayor. For someone who has been polling soft for 2013 elections in part because he’s not well-known, his everyman antics this week make him a winner.
Greg Ball – Its not often that an elected official earns both an overwhelming thumbs up from the Conservative Party and a stern warning from conservative commentator Sean Hannity, all in the same week. But Greg Ball is no ordinary legislator. Only Ball could earn an 80 percent score from the Conservatives while at the same time mouthing off against Republicans in Congress – namely Nan Hayworth who he may run against next year – and Hank Williams Jr. for his ill-timed Obama-as-Hitler comparison. The overarching message? Don’t bounce around with Ball.
Eric Schneiderman – Not only is the attorney general’s stance against the mortgage settlement with the banks gaining more and more steam as the weeks progress, but even the famously cause-promiscuous Occupy Wall Street protesters are applauding Schneiderman for sticking up to the bankers. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are calling on the AG to investigate the NYPD’s mosque crawling tactics. And while he may ultimately opt to stay out of that snake pit, there’s no doubt that Schneiderman is beginning to emerge as a progressive icon during a time when so few are rising to the surface.
Letitia James – For years, the Brooklyn councilwoman has been beating the drum on wasteful spending by the Bloomberg administration, holding multiple hearings when she was chair of the Contract’s Committee. This week, Council Speaker Christine Quinn took up the cause, bringing a bill to the floor that will rein in the use of outside consultants, even as Bloomberg promised to veto the bill. That will look good if James jumps into the prospective race for public advocate — a prospect that became increasingly likely this week. James had mulled running for Rep. Ed Towns’ Assembly seat, but with Hakeem Jeffries all but certain to run, a citywide campaign appears much more probable.
Barbara Fiala – If anyone needed a vision test, it may have been the Department of Motor Vehicles commissioner. Fiala’s department rolled out a cost-saving plan last week to allow drivers renewing their licenses to do their own eye exams, but the shift elicited sharp criticism from county clerks, optometrists and pedestrian advocates about the unsafe drivers that would be left swerving all over the road. So Fiala the put the brakes on the self-certified eye tests and handed off the issue to an advisory panel for further study.
Sal Cassano – Fire Commissioner Cassano and the FDNY got a stern rebuke over the low number of minorities in the ranks as a federal judge ruled this week that the department had been too white for too long — and with too little effort to change things. The judge targeted Mayor Bloomberg for being focused more on defending the department than making real changes. But it’s Cassano, who had made a push on minority recruitment in recent years, who will have a powerful court-appointed monitor intimately involved in his department’s hiring practices, from investigating its hiring decisions to re-writing its tests.
Ray Kelly — What does it take for the City Council to exercise tough oversight of the NYPD? Spying on Muslims, arresting a councilman, refusing to let a councilwoman join a parade — take your pick. The police commissioner had a rough session in a Council hearing yesterday, on the heels of videos that show police supervisors beating and pepper-spraying protesters. The NYPD’s heavy hand may have only served to draw more attention to Occupy Wall Street, and any police attempt to clear Zuccotti Park would be ugly. The commissioner has always been personally popular despite the ups and downs of the force he commands. Will that last?
Michael Bloomberg — Try as he might to focus on good news in New York, it’s hard to play offense when you’re busy on defense. The mayor started his week being grilled under oath in the John Haggerty trial, then kept walking into more bad news — a court ruling against the FDNY, a new round of budget cuts, a public protest against his friends on Wall Street with no end in sight. Why did he want a third term again?
Erik Dilan – The Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s indictment of a developer who allegedly gave kickbacks to a city housing official doesn’t directly involve City Councilman Erik Martin Dilan. But the developer, Sergio Benitez, is reportedly at the heart of a corruption probe involving the councilman, who has been living in an affordable housing unit for which he and his wife were eligible. Who knows how the charges or investigation will shake out, but this is not the kind of press Dilan needs as he mulls a primary challenge to Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez.
Read the full post at City Hall News.